Cyclic distension of fibrin-based tissue constructs: Evidence of adaptation during growth of engineered connective tissue

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Tissue engineering provides a means to create functional living tissue replacements. Here, we examine the effects of 3 weeks of cyclic distension (CD) on fibrin-based tubular tissue constructs seeded with porcine valve interstitial cells. CD with circumferential strain amplitude ranging from 2.5% to 20% was applied to evaluate the effects of CD on fibrin remodeling into tissue. We hypothesized that during long-term CD cells adapt to cyclic strain of constant strain amplitude (constant CD), diminishing tissue growth. We thus also subjected constructs to CD with strain amplitude that was incremented from 5% to 15% over the 3 weeks of CD [incremental CD (ICD)]. For constant CD, improvement occurred in construct mechanical properties and composition, peaking at 15% strain: ultimate tensile strength (UTS) and tensile modulus increased 47% and 45%, respectively, over statically incubated controls (to 1.1 and 4.7 MPa, respectively); collagen density increased 29% compared with controls (to 27 mg/ml). ICD further improved outcomes. UTS increased 98% and modulus increased 62% compared with the largest values with constant CD, and collagen density increased 34%. Only in the case of ICD was the ratio of collagen content to cell number greater (70%) than controls, consistent with increased collagen deposition per cell. Studies with human dermal fibroblasts showed similar improvements, generalizing the findings, and revealed a 255% increase in extracellular signal-regulated kinase signaling for ICD vs. constant CD. These results suggest cell adaptation may limit conventional strategies of stretching with constant strain amplitude and that new approaches might optimize bioreactor operation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6537-6542
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number18
StatePublished - May 6 2008


  • Conditioning
  • Dermal fibroblast
  • ERK signal
  • Mechanical loading
  • Tissue engineering
  • Valve interstitial cells


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